A meticulous, high-yield crop farmer, Philip Grimes of Tifton is admired as one of the best farmers in South Georgia. He has been recognized on the state level for producing high peanut yields for more than 20 consecutive years. A conservation farmer, he uses cover crops and has installed grassed waterways, terraces and ponds on his land.
A farmer for 37 years, Grimes operates 2,210 acres of which 1,150 acres are rented and 1,060 acres are owned. Peanuts and cotton are his main crops. He also grows cantaloupes, broccoli, snap beans and corn. He plants about 50 acres specifically to benefit wildlife and he has about 475 acres of timber.
As a result of his success as crop farmer, Grimes has been selected as the 2014 Georgia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Grimes joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie.
His irrigated per acre yields include 6,440 pounds of peanuts from 660 acres, 1,405 pounds of cotton from 890 acres, 6,500 cantaloupes from 360 acres, 600 boxes of broccoli from 90 acres, 8,500 pounds of snap beans from 105 acres and 265 bushels of corn from 100 acres.
Grimes keeps detailed farming records, and has since he began farming. “I have records on planting dates, yields, rotations, sprays, varieties, fertilizers, and I note what works and what doesn’t work,” says Grimes.
“I know the fields I farm well, for instance, which ones need more potassium fertilizer,” he adds. Splitting fertilizer applications is just one practice he uses that pays off, especially during years when heavy rains can leach fertility from the root zone.
His farm has 45 center pivots for irrigation, and he has ponds holding some 150 acres of water. He also uses global positioning guidance on his tractors. “This innovation has improved our planting and harvesting,” he adds.
His farm benefits from extensive cover crops. He especially likes rye as a cover. “Soil fertility is often higher after rye,” says Grimes. He also notes that following crops put out roots that follow the same channels in the soil established by the rye roots.
He has invested in a peanut shelling plant and buying point, along with cantaloupe packing facilities. The peanut facility shells 35,000 tons yearly for the edible market. His cantaloupe facility provides grading, cooling and shipping for his crop. “We also repack on a limited basis for other individuals and businesses in other times of the year,” adds Grimes.
Grimes markets his peanuts through the local buying point and shelling facility. He sells cotton using forward contracts and at a local gin. He markets his cantaloupes through his own distribution network of customers, including major grocery retail chains. He sells his broccoli through Quality Produce LLC, a firm based in Tifton. He grows snap beans under contract with a commercial green bean processor. And he sells his corn using forward contracts available from a grain buying facility.
Food safety is a top priority at our farm,” says Grimes. The farm is known for using Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in the growing, harvesting, handling and shipping of its produce crops. The farm and its facilities are also inspected regularly by third-party organizations to reassure food customers of the wholesomeness of the food crops. The produce industry has made great strides in the ability to trace back food crops. “You can trace back each box to the field and to the day it was picked,” adds Grimes.
Grimes didn’t grow up on a farm. “My father died at age 36 when I was five years old,” he recalls. “I had a garden in my back yard, and at an early age, I knew I wanted to farm.” While in school, he spent his summer months working for others on farms. He got married in 1975 and worked at his father-in-law’s farm. He started growing more crops on his own after his father-in-law retired from farming.
In 1990, he became a partner with a friend, H.C. Dodson, who was looking to retire from farming. Dodson ran Docia Farms, the business Grimes now operates. His association with Dodson allowed Grimes to increase his acreage.
“My operation has continued to grow over the years,” he says. Dodson died five years ago. He and Grimes shared a similar farming philosophy. For instance, they fertilized for high yields. With irrigation, they made sure their crops never suffered from lack of water. They also were timely in applying products such as fumigants, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides that would help insure high yielding and high quality crops.
Grimes is active locally at Northside Baptist Church and Tift County Farm Bureau. He has been recognized as an outstanding farmer by many organizations. Some of these include the local Chamber of Commerce, the local soil and water conservation district, Farm Press Publications and Philip Morris USA.
He regularly attends helpful production meetings sponsored by Georgia Extension. He has also been an adviser for the local Extension office.
At the state level, he attends the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club seminars. He is also active in Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Association. He is a past member of the Georgia Agribusiness Council. In addition to the Georgia Peanut Tour, he has also hosted visits by members of the U.S. Congress and many other tours at his farm.
His wife Jane is a big reason for the farm’s success. She serves as office manager, bookkeeper and receptionist for the farm. She is also active in the farm’s food safety and marketing efforts. Jane was recently elected to the local USDA-Farm Service Agency county committee. Last year, she helped in a program to teach school children about agriculture.
The couple has three children, daughters Mandy and Brandi and son Andrew. Both Andrew and Mandy’s husband Gator Walker work full-time on the farm. Philip says they are part of a very dependable work force.
“Our children, their families and our five grandchildren all play an important part in my life,” says Grimes. “The Good Lord has blessed me. Farming has always been a way of life for me. I feel a sense of accomplishment in watching things grow and knowing that I help to feed this country and the world.”
Steve Brown with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service is the state coordinator for the Farmer of the Year awards. Grimes was nominated for the award by Brian Tankersley, county Extension coordinator in Tift County, Ga. “This award recognizes the best of the best, and Philip is in this category,” says Tankersley. “Philip is family oriented, innovative and efficient in his production and he keeps great farming records.”
As the Georgia state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Grimes will now receive a $2,500 cash award and a paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, the choice of either $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from Dow AgroSciences, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
He is now eligible for the $15,000 cash award that will go to the overall winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include the use of a Massey Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America, another $500 gift certificate and a Heritage gun safe from the Southern States cooperative, the choice of another $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed or a second $500 donation to a designated charity from Dow AgroSciences, and a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.
A panel of judges will visit the Grimes farm, along with the farms of the other nine state finalists, during the week of Aug. 4-8. The judges for this year include farmer Brian Kirksey of Amity, Ark., the overall winner in 2008; John Woodruff, retired University of Georgia Extension agronomist from Tifton, who specialized in soybeans for many years; and Clark Garland, longtime University of Tennessee Extension ag economist from Maryville, Tenn.